“People do not buy for logical reasons. They buy for emotional reasons.”
In order to better understand the meaning of this quotation by American motivational writer Zig Ziglar, we have interviewed Lorenzo Dornetti, CEO of Neurovendita, the firm that has patented a new know-how translating the most recent discoveries on the brain’s functioning into services accelerating sales.
Who is Lorenzo Dornetti, CEO & Founder of Neurovendita?
I would call myself an atypical psychologist who has made a profession out of an unlucky circumstance. After finishing high school, I started medicine at university, but soon I found out that I could not bear the sight of blood! That is when I decided to switch to cognitive neurosciences at the San Raffaele University in Milan. I fell in love with their approach, halfway between psychology and statistics, so after graduating, I decided to research more into this. My dream was to find a cure for Alzheimer. Meanwhile I graduated and won a scholarship, but life got in between!
Because of unexpected economic difficulties in my family, right after graduating, I had to find a job, or rather, I had to find two, and both in sales: I was a credit broker during the week, and worked as a sales assistant in a clothes shop on Saturday. In the meantime, I kept studying psychology, and I passed the state exam in psychology. Three years later, with a colleague who had the same background and life experiences as me, I decided to give sales advising a try: this is how the AGF Group was born.
I still remember our first client, who was referred to us by the priest of the village where I live. In 2011, we finally gained our first important client, a big outlet selling products from a renowned sportswear and leisurewear brand. Fortune favors the brave, as they say! Thanks to our advice, the client won the annual sales contest with a secret weapon: psychology! That was the beginning of everything: the head office contacted us, and this job paved the way to the world of fashion for us.
We were also working on a network of sales psychologists; in 2015, a mobile phone services giant came to us, as it was tired of the traditional approaches to sales training, and was looking for an innovative approach to adopt with their sellers. Neurovendita was born, and soon became a registered trademark.
The neuroscientific approach became our trademark: our client portfolio expanded from fashion to mobile communication, from finance to insurances. Nowadays, Neurovendita has a team of over 30 professionals, mainly women aged averagely 32, 11 patented selling protocol, and a client portfolio including 21 among the 100 most important brands in the world.
A modern fairytale, but who’s the main character?
An ambitious man who is lucky enough to have three beautiful little girls and a partner helping and supporting him in his ambition. I am a man of extremes, I cannot balance my professional and private life, I take both to extremes! When I am working, nothing else exists, but when I am home with my family, work does not exist either.
In my job, I have three souls: a pragmatic soul that yearns for results, the researcher’s passionate soul, and a few years ago, I also discovered a new entrepreneurial soul that wants to go beyond itself, to build a topic.
Should you describe yourself with the characteristics of an animal, what animal would it be?
My zodiac sign would make me say scorpion, but I actually see myself as a donkey: an animal of average intelligence, but able to work hard, resilient and steadfast like me.
Let’s move on to Neurovendita: what’s your vision?
We did not have any vision at first; on a mere pragmatic level, we needed to make ends meet. When we started out, after the subprime crisis in the United States, our ambition was to get through the month! Our customers taught us everything, pushed us to innovate, and we listened carefully to them! This pragmatism of ours is what makes us love the world of business. As they say, they see us as the chrism of suffering.
Our luck was also meeting big companies that got us to take the leap and always strive for excellence.
From 2016 onwards, on the other hand, we have had a clear vision: business companies need to develop good relationships with their customers, need extraordinary sellers, and neurosciences give us the opportunity to gain tools to build these relationships and strengthen them in time.
From 1960 to 2020, how did sales change?
Over those 60 years, we moved from sellers having to create needs in their customers to sellers having to listen to their customers’ needs, from debating to empathizing. A Copernican revolution! Now, by applying the knowledge that neurosciences have given us, we can make it easier to get to a conclusion, which is crucial to the sales process.
But what are neurosciences, and when were they born?
Neurosciences are the ensemble of studies scientifically run on the nervous system. Being a branch of biology, neurosciences require knowledge of physiology, molecular biology, cellular biology, developmental biology, biochemistry, anatomy, genetics, evolutionary biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics and statistics, but contrary to other biology branches, they also involve other research fields like psychology and linguistics.
Using MRI has helped to understand many of the processes that regulate the functioning of our brain. Traditionally, neurosciences were born when neurons were identified as autonomous cellular units that were functionally independent from the nervous system. Yet, neurosciences started to be discussed in the early 1980s. Today, however, such new knowledge is still a prerogative of an elite, but at Neurovendita, we have decided to apply it to a traditional process, the sales process, and thus make neurosciences known to more and more people.
Customers are looking for more and more competent sellers, and Neurovendita cannot help in gaining these skills, but it can help when, after helping customers analyze the best products or services for their needs, the sale needs bringing to a conclusion. Upon deciding, in handling objections, developing trust and encouraging active listening, Neurovendita can give support. I often meet absolutely skilled professionals who cannot be efficient and productive. Neurosciences make us able to better understand our interlocutor’s levers, and emotionally get through to them. In this respect, there will never be standard behaviors; neurosciences help us customize the sales process.
At this point, a spontaneous question arises about behavioral ethics: is this about persuasion or manipulation?
Many have asked me about this over the years. I think we should make peace with the verb ‘to manipulate’. For psychology researchers, everything is manipulation. If you applaud a child for crawling for the first time, you are manipulating that child through positive reinforcement. I am obviously exaggerating here!
The human brain is an organ that takes information from the outside and reprocesses it; after this reprocessing, it makes decisions. The right questions to ask is: can you influence this process? The answer is: yes, of course! The technology we are talking about is powerful, and can be used in the right way, for growing or evolving, or in the wrong way. The history of our evolution is a history of successful manipulation. A paradox? I would not say so!
Let’s make a tangible example: during the Second World War, Wernher von Braun put his technology at the service of Germany to build ballistic rockets, and Hitler used it to destroy London. Technology is neutral, the way it is used can be distorted. So much so that after the war, Von Braun started to collaborate with the United States. The person to guide the first step on the Moon, the ‘giant leap for mankind’, was von Braun himself. Once again, technology is neutral, and the way it was used in this case was for humankind’s good.
Seven years after you started your business, what are the first goals that you have reached, and what are your new projects?
I live in a small village near Lodi, in Lombardy, Italy, and when I started out, I had no means. My first achievements, my biggest reasons of satisfaction are those that I was mentioning earlier: having a team of 30 qualified collaborators, and a portfolio that counts 21 among the 100 most famous brands in the world!
Among our new projects, the one I care about the most is the “Brain Fitness Lab”. A lab that has the purpose of enhancing and supporting accounts, and everyone managing customer relationships in general.
We have patented 3 protocols to offer second-level training to anyone having already received basic training in neurosales. Using neuroscientific devices, the participants will learn how to control the parasympathetic system in order to manage relationships lucidly.
Could you elaborate this further?
For example, let’s consider the “Face Reader”. It is a device that makes the user aware of the way their face tells a lot about the emotions they are feeling.
Where is this lab located?
There is not any physical location. Technologies are mobile today. Let’s take the example of an electroencephalography device: today, it is a wireless helmet that can easily be moved anywhere.
Recently, for an important client of ours, we created a path to help some of their top managers relax their bodies, and strengthen their minds. We moved our lab to a renowned spa.
After the physical well-being paths, we took care of training minds through specific sessions: a modern mental gym.
But let’s go back to Neurovendita’s future: what are your projects in the medium and long run?
Our business plan for the next 5 years is really challenging. We want to transform Neurovendita in a benchmark for the market.
We want our team to grow, we want our project to reach 100 collaborators, and we want to make a remarkably higher turnover. Our business goal is to become a public company. The next objective is going public!
In this time of crisis due to the pandemic, talking about growing and going public sounds like science fiction!
Actually, during the pandemic last year, we registered a 20% growth, and we did not lay anybody off. I am so proud of this. Our large, varied offering allowed us to face this crisis, and even grow. Studying the brain functioning of our customers and sellers during the pandemic has given us interesting insights to develop new techniques for managing customers remotely and in video calls.
Having a clear identity greatly helps us not to waste our energies. We are specialized in selling, this is our know how! I expect customer care professionals to grow in numbers and become more important in the next few months. There will be a greater and greater need for qualified professionals in online sales and post-sales; specific training will be more and more demanded, and Neurovendita is ready to take up the challenge!